Thursday, November 10, 2016

Language of Confusion: Ports, Part II

Last week, we looked at just pain port. Now let’s look at words that begin with port and see if they’re related! Ha ha, they’re not.

Portion showed up in the early fourteenth century, coming from the Old French porcion and classical Latin portionem, share. It’s actually related to the phrase pro portione, which, of course, is where we get proportion. Pro- means for here and the rest comes from partio, division. That word is related to the origin word for part. But not port.

Now let’s look at portent and portend. Portent first showed up in the mid sixteenth century while portend showed up in the early fifteenth century. Portent comes from the Middle French portent and classical Latin portentum, portent. Portend comes right from the Latin portendere, which means foretell and is the verb form of portentum. Portendere is actually a mix of the prefix pro-, forward, and tendere, to tend to or stretch (and the origin word of tenet). In other words, it’s also not related to port at all. Just another coincidence!

Portray showed up in the mid thirteenth century meaning draw or paint—so yeah, that’s where portrait originates too. It comes from the Anglo French purtraire and Old French portraire, which also means draw or paint. The word was first put together in French, por- + -traire. Both words come from Latin, por- from pro- (third time now! This time it means forth again) and traire is from trahere, pull. Pull? Really?

So none of those port words are related to port. Portable is, and it actually still has the Latin meaning of portrare/to carry. But there is one word that’s related to port and that is…Porch.

Seriously. Porch. It comes from the Old French porche and classical Latin porticus, which meant things like porch or gallery. That word comes from porta, which, as we learned last week, means gate. So it does make sense when you learn the history of it, but still. Weird.



  1. So the porch is the gate to the house...

  2. So basically, port only works in the previous terms when it's a suffix? Very interesting.

  3. Portent and portend are words we really don't use much anymore.

  4. Portray. One that makes sense. Sort of.

  5. What about portly? Does that come from one of these roots too?


Please validate me.